Transformers, Issue One

I didn’t get Transformers Issue One when it was new. I turned six in 1984.

No, I had to hunt this thing down, later on.

I don’t remember the exact process, or even when I acquired it. 1990, 1991, probably? But I know what it was like to get my hands on this, and how it felt when I did.

For me, this was not only a quest years before searchable back issue catalogs on the Web. It was also a quest undertaken in a small town, years before I had even a student driver’s license. I wasn’t hunting through bins at comic book stores, or at conventions. These were the days of mail-order from catalogs.

I ordered comic books that way a number of times. I may even have tried to order Transformers #1 multiple times. These were the days when you wrote what you wanted on a form, and which grades were acceptable to you, then wrote alternate selections because what the store had at the time of printing their catalog changed, obviously, in the time that catalog traveled to you in the mail and your order traveled back to the store.

I know that I wanted this for a while, and getting it at last felt like a quest accomplished. In all seriousness it felt a bit like Bart and his friends staring with awe at Radioactive Man #1, the real thing.

The cover didn’t hurt! I’m not sure whose work this is, but it feels cinematic even now, and at age 12 or whatever, woh.

Other than the cover, though, I can say that the highlight for me was acquiring this artifact, rather than reading the story.

It isn’t bad. I don’t know how it read initially, either, but I do know that coming to it years into the series, it didn’t feel really necessary. It isn’t a great story, honestly. It’s kind of a box-checking exercise in introducing a whole lot of characters and (most of them being robot aliens who nonetheless transform into the shape of Earthling vehicles etc.) explanation. I have a vague memory of reading, somewhere, that the story was heavily reworked at the last minute also, although I don’t see it in either of the blog posts Jim Shooter wrote about Marvel’s work on the property. The posts do confirm that it was chaotic, though. So I can easily believe that Mantlo and Macchio did about the best anyone could have in the circumstances.

To their further credit, looking back yesterday nearly four decades after they wrote Transformers #1, I found points of interest which surprised me. As I noted, this is definitely not an origin story which history cherished as legend, despite the franchise’s decades of longevity. (It may be less Fantastic Four #1 or Amazing Fantasy #15 than X-Men #1; while the X-Men went on and on, I never got the impression of issue one being a key story revisited again and again.)

In the case of Transformers #1, this may also have something to do with Transformers being not only transferred among various licensees over the years, but also being a fragmented canon from the very beginning. The Marvel comic did not match the animated series (even though Marvel worked on both). Plus Marvel UK quickly started doing extra stories, and I think Japan had its own Transformers manga. On top of all this, Marvel initially placed its Transformers comic in the Marvel Universe—before retconning it out several issues later—so various Marvel properties appear throughout the the initial arc of which issue #1 is a part. They aren’t integral to the story, except Spider-Man in issue #3, but this probably was one more factor encouraging issue one’s subsequent reduction to more of a preliminary draft status.

If not for the quest through which I obtained it, even I might part with this thing for original cover price if offered. But since it was a quest, I can write two gd blog posts about it, ha!

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